World and Nation

New U.S. emissions and fuel economy standards take aim at heavy vehicles

WASHINGTON — The federal government announced the first national emissions and fuel economy standards for heavy vehicles Monday, one of a series of regulatory steps that the Obama administration is taking to increase energy efficiency and reduce atmospheric pollution in the absence of congressional action on climate change.

The administration also announced approval of a major solar power installation on public land in the California desert, a step toward weaning the nation from dependence on fossil fuels. Together they represent what President Barack Obama has called a more “bite-size” approach to global warming that he intends to pursue while efforts to pass comprehensive legislation are stalled.

The mileage proposal, which is scheduled to become final next year after a period of public comment, will apply to tractor-trailers, buses, delivery vans, heavy pickup trucks, cement mixers and many other classes of vehicles. It will cover new vehicles manufactured between 2014 and 2018.

The proposed policy would apply different standards to different vehicles, based on weight and intended use. For example, over-the-road tractor-trailers would be required to achieve a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 2018. Heavy-duty pickups and vans would be subject to different gasoline and diesel fuel standards, with reductions ranging from 10 percent to 15 percent. Other work trucks would have to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2018.

Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the new standards were an extension of the mileage and emissions rules that the administration had adopted for passenger cars and light trucks. She said that lower fuel costs for truckers would more than cover the costs of the technology used to meet the new standards and would create jobs in truck manufacturing and related industries.

The standards proposed by the administration, after extensive consultation with manufacturers and trucking companies and a detailed review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, are significantly less ambitious to keep costs manageable, officials said.

The American Trucking Associations praised the administration’s approach, saying that allowing manufacturers and truck users to find ways to meet defined new mileage standards was preferable to imposing a fuel tax or a broad program for reducing carbon dioxide emissions on the entire transportation sector. The group said it was withholding more detailed comment until it studied the proposed regulations.